Will election of MMDCEs guarantee development?

BY: Rebecca Ekpe
Jean Mensa - Chairperson of the Electoral Commission
Jean Mensa - Chairperson of the Electoral Commission

Arguably, Ghana's democracy is infantile and development may not be automatically achieved if Metropolitan, Municipal and District Chief Executives, (MMDCEs) are elected along party lines.

President Nana Addo-Dankwa Akufo Addo during his campaign in 2016 promised to elect MMDCEs, and Ghanaians gave him the mandate. It is now time to make sure that MMDCEs are elected.

The Ministry of Local Government and Rural Development, Parliament, the Presidency and allied agencies have started the processes to ensure that MMDCEs get elected in 2021.

For now, one of the legalities are to amend Article 55(3) of the 1992 Constitution which will pave the way for district assemblies or local government unit elections to be held along party lines.

As an entrenched clause, a referendum needs to be held for which the people of Ghana must show a 40 per cent turn out with 75 per cent voting YES to give life to the President's promise to elect MMDCEs.

Currently, the Electoral Commission, (EC), has set December 10 to hold the referendum, concurrently with the District Assembly(Level) Elections.

The positives

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One of the huge positives for electing MMDCEs along party lines is the mass mobilisation of people.

Here, there is bound to be huge interest and participation because of its competitive nature.

EC statistics show that the approximate turnout at Local Level Elections is in the low, 35 per cent with national level election turnout averaging 85 per cent.

Clearly, participation of political parties would arouse more interest, generate intense competition and heighten the stakes.

Also, if MMDCEs are elected, it could be the answer to human resource capacity concerns at the local governance level.

Further, instead of just a party crony compensation, there would be more scrutiny of candidates vying for positions.

Also, if MMDCEs are elected, it will raise the bar to ensure that the most qualified person wins because it will be mandatory for candidates to mount platforms and present manifestos.

Another point, election of MMDCEs could mean bye-bye time to the Winner-Takes-All politics.

Simply there will be multiple parties in power where the elected MMDCE could emerge from the opposition and the MP could be from the ruling party.

This would foster diversity and enhance participation for the ''people’s choice''.

Development reality

Yes! the people's choice is clear if MMDCEs are elected. But election of MMDCEs in itself would not guarantee development.

At best, it can engender citizens’ participation, but not exactly development.

Development will happen if citizens are equipped with knowledge to seek accountability of the government. Furthermore, if the problem of lack of capacity at the assemblies is not fixed, development will be a mirage.

Yes, election of MMDCEs along party lines could reduce the anxieties with the Winner-Takes -All, but may not guarantee development.

Development is at the heart of Ghana's democracy and all policies and laws must be geared towards a bottom-up approach to better the lives of citizens.

I agree with local government pundits , Professor Ransford Gyampo, Dr Abdulai Dramani, Dr Etse Sikanku and Mrs Clara Beeri Kasser-Tee while speaking on a GTV local governance platform , ''We the people'', and they asserted that election of MMDCEs along partisan lines is a step in the right direction and a bold initiative for Ghanaians and the country's democratic trajectory.

However, without correcting concerns of delays in devolving revenue to the assemblies, lack of capacity and polarisation of our politics among other challenges, the election of MMDCEs along party lines would only come to create new problems, where local development would become elusive.

It is, however, reassuring that ''decentralisation is a process'' quoting Dr Dramani and, therefore, challenges could be addressed as the process travels. Critical of it all is citizens’ participation at all levels of governance.

The Ghana Journalists Association with support from STAR-Ghana Foundation has set the pace via its monthly platform ,’We the people’, where others should also take a cue!

The writer is a Development Journalist. Email This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.